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Sound Advice for Gamers
May 31st, 2000

Gary: Alright, that's the last of them. Why did you need me to bring you sixty-four speakers?

Randy: I've figured out a way to get accurate 3D sound when we game.

Gary: Well, this seems a bit much. I wish I had asked before I filled up my Visa card.

Randy: You know what they say.

Gary: Yeah, yeah. "It's everywhere you want to be." So what?

Randy: No, man. I mean that sound is every bit as important as graphics in a complete gaming experience.

Gary: That's true, but I think I have a better answer for 3D sound than this ridiculous plan.

Randy: What's that, Chompy?

Gary: Well, I finally upgraded my ancient AppleDesign Powered Speakers that I bought about five years ago.

Randy: Did they give out on you at last?

Gary: No, they're doing great. I set them up for my wife Jennifer so she can listen to CD's when she's taking a bath. They are still some of the loudest computer speakers I have personally tested.

Randy: While she's in the bath? I hope her tiara doesn't get wet.

Gary: You know she will kick your ass when she reads this.

Randy: She reads these things? Uh, sorry, Jen.

Gary: Anyway, I did a little research, and decided that I would go with some cool flat panel speakers from Sonigistix. I got the Monsoon MM-1000's. They come with a 25-watt subwoofer and 2 12.5-watt flat panel satellite speakers. Do you know why I chose them?

Randy: Because you are addicted to gadgets and will buy anything that seems cool to you? Like that lighter that would light in 100 mile-per-hour winds and would melt granite? Like that those nuclear clocks that would stay accurate for eons, long after we are dead?

Gary: No, but they are pretty damn cool.

Randy: How come a nuclear clock needs a Duracell 9-volt battery?

Gary: I will beat you.

Randy: So, why did you choose the Monsoons?

Gary: Because the key to accurate 3D sound from a 2 speaker setup is extremely focused sound. The flat panel speakers can deliver sound very directionally. This means that very few soundwaves are bouncing off of other objects, like your monitor and other obstructions. Therefore, games that use various types of 3D sound technologies work better with these speakers.

Randy: How well does it work?

Gary: There are various methods of simulating true 3D sound with a stereo setup, but from my experience these speakers are really good at creating a convincing effect. For example, while playing Unreal Tournament, I actually heard footsteps running up from behind me, and I spun around and made stew of a bot that thought it could compete with me. Hah!

Randy: Oh yeah, you're the master at UT. Once I get my 3D setup going, you won't stand a chance.

Gary: These are some pretty cool speakers, Chachi. The flat panels deliver incredibly crisp, clear sound with extreme separation, and the subwoofer shakes the house with well-defined sound. Not muddy at all. I do wish they were a scooch louder though. I find myself wishing I could turn it up just a little bit more.

Randy: When can I hear these things? I am intrigued.

Gary: Soon, my friend, soon. One caveat with these speakers is that the directional sound creates a pretty small sweet spot that you must be in to get the full effect. But since I don't usually have anyone else in my office while I play Unreal, that's okay. And while I am on the negative stuff, I have a couple of other things to mention.

Randy: You negative? That's hard to believe.

Gary: Remind me to hurt you later.

Randy: Will do.

Gary: First, the documentation was horribly inaccurate. These speakers only have controls on the subwoofer, so to prevent you from having to crawl under the desk, Sonigistix provides an input cable that had a volume thumbwheel on it, as well as a mute button. The documentation says specifically that you should plug this cable into the remote jack on the back of the subwoofer, and that plugging it into any other port will damage the equipment and void the warranty.

Randy: And now, the exciting climax to this story.

Gary: There was no remote port on the subwoofer. I called tech support and they said they had reworked the circuit board, and I should plug the remote puck cable in to the first input jack, exactly what the written documentation said would destroy my new speakers.

Randy: That's pretty bad.

Gary: Are you phoning this one in? "That's pretty bad."? Show a little interest, dude.

Randy: Listen, I want to try out my speakers. Can you wrap this diatribe up soon?

Gary: Alright, if you insist. My last complaint was the biggest. It has nothing to do with the quality of the speakers, but my buying experience. There is an incompetent company called Digital River, that runs a whole lot of online stores. If you run across an online store that is run by Digital River, I recommend finding another way to purchase your goods.

Randy: Wow, strong words. Please elaborate while I finish the wiring to my 3D speaker system.

Gary: Well, Sonigistix's online store is run by Digital River. The speakers' price was US$199, plus US$18.95 for UPS ground shipping. I placed an order on April 29. When it came to be May 20, and I hadn't received my speakers, I called customer service. Digital River said that their loss prevention department had canceled my order for some reason. I asked them to replace my order. They said they couldn't because my account was locked out. I explained that I always order online and have had no problems in the past. They said loss prevention would have to call me the next business day. Of course they didn't.

Randy: Exciting.

Gary: I called back. The service rep said that he could replace my order, no problem, even though the other rep told me that I was locked out. He did that, but by this time I was frustrated enough to go to Sonigistix's site and find other retailers that I could buy my speakers from. Of course, one of my favorite online stores, Outpost.com, was listed.

Randy: Ah, Cyberian Outpost. One of the pioneers, and still one of the best of the online computer stores.

Gary: Anyway, I got the speakers from Outpost for $169, and that included FREE overnight shipping. I called Digital River back and said that I was very disappointed with their service and to cancel my order. This rep said that my account was locked out and that the other rep could not have possibly replaced my order. I said good. They said the reason that my order was initially canceled was because I had not responded to a confirmation e-mail. I have ordered countless times online, and have never had to confirm via e-mail after an order.

Randy: Dude, I have to shave since you started that story. Care to wrap it up anytime soon?

Gary: So the next day, I got my speakers from Outpost -- and an e-mail from Digital River, confirming my new order and letting me know that my credit card had been charged. When I called in disgust, they just told me to call UPS and have the package sent back. When they get the merchandise, they say they will credit my card. Those bastards.

Randy: That was real interesting, Dr. Dronealot. Well, I have an industrial-strength electrical cable driving 32 high -power amps which are pushing 64 speakers that have been strategically placed to aim directly at my head for the maximum 3D effect. Want to see how this works?

Gary: Yes. Yes, I do.

Randy: Just let me strap on the butt woofers and I'll be ready. You see that big yellow handle over there?

Gary: Yes. Yes, I do.

Randy: Give it a pull and experience the nirvana of REAL 3D sound!

Gary: Just remember you asked me to do this...

(A sonic boom ruptures the fabric and space and time in an earsplitting feedback sound. Then there is silence.)

Gary: Wow, that was intense. It wasn't 3D sound, but it was intense. You okay dude?

Randy: Call my doctor.

Gary: Oh my God! Are you hurt?

Randy: No, I just need to cancel my kidney stone removal appointment. I think they are all taken care of now.

Gary: I think I'll stick with my Monsoon MM-1000 speakers for my 3D sound.

Gary Randazzo and Randy Soare are the co-founders of IWS Interactive, a New York based game developer for Macintosh. The IWS in IWS Interactive stands for Idiots With Sticks. How that came about is a long and boring story, but suffice it to say that at four in the morning, it seemed like a good idea.

The demo for IWS Interactive's upcoming mystery-adventure game, Manhattan Apartment Hunter, has recently been released to rave reviews. The Idiots have been into gaming on Apple computers even before the Mac was around. Does anyone remember Choplifter on the Apple IIe? (Boy, we know we do.) Now, they are committed to help ensure that the Mac remains the premiere gaming platform on the planet.

You can email your comment and suggestions to Randy at , and Gary at .


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